1) Create Content that Fascinates.
Your viewers have 2.5 seconds when scrolling through their phones to stop and look at your photo, makes sure it sticks out. If you were driving down the road, and to your left, there was a field full of cows, all of them were white, but one cow. It was purple! It would stick out to you, it would grab your attention over the other 50 cows on the field in the 2.5 seconds it took you to drive by. Make sure your photos do the same thing. The other photos are cows, your cow needs to be purple. There is actually a great book called "Purple Cow" That I highly recommend reading with regards to creating something that is unique. Give your viewers something they haven't seen before.
2) Reduce the Clutter on Your Page.
Think about a thrift store, there is junk everywhere. Things don't seem to have a place, they are not very well organized, hence it is cheap. Now imagine a store that is expensive, When you walk into that store, the colors pop out, everything is organized, the shelf's are clean, there is what we call brand continuity. Your Instagram feed should be the exact same. If you are a landscape photographer, only post photos of landscapes. If you are a portrait photographer, only post photos of portraits. If you are a food photographer, only post photos of food. If you are an alien spaceship photographer, only post pictures of alien spaceships. I think you're starting to catch the drift - and that brings me to my next point.
3) Pick a Niche and Stick With it.
Think about that one thing that makes people come to your page. If you overheard a conversation in a coffee shop regarding someone talking about your Instagram, someone should be able to say "Oh yeah, that's photographer that does those lightning strikes with the lighthouses!" or "Isn't that the blogger that travels everywhere with a pet snail in a jar?" or "Isn't that the foodie who puts ketchup on everything she eats?" If you want to stand out, you need to find that one thing that you are going to be known for. Another great book I recommend on this topic is ironically enough called "The One Thing." When you get a larger following you can start to venture out into other things, but when starting off, find that one thing and own it.
4) Post Quality Photos and Video.
This is a must, your photos should be well lit, clear, sharp and capable of telling a story. Today, cellphones have amazing camera quality, however they aren't able to compete with DSLR's. For landscapes, they do compete; however, you are not able to get telephoto compression on a phone - something that makes a photo pop. You aren't able to get a great background blur. (Don't use the cheap background blur filter, it looks terrible.) If you are serious about your social media game, get a nice camera and learn how to use it. You can get a good deal on a used camera with a versatile lens for $500.
5) Put Your Photos In Portrait Mode.
When you are driving down the road and you see a billboard, most likely you saw it because it was massive; it took up a lot of space. The same should be said with your photos. When you crop your photo in portrait mode, you take up the users whole screen when they are scrolling down their feed. When you crop it in landscape, you are sharing space with at least 3 other photos. Remember, spreading brand awareness is being seen, and being seen is spreading brand awareness.
6) Use the Right Hashtags.
If you were in a crowd of people - on the phone with your sister trying to guide her to where you are, most likely you would get out of the crowd and find a place to meet at. Hashtags work the same way. When you use a hashtag that 1 million other users are using, that hashtag is extremely competitive and your photo will get drowned out making it hard for people to stumble across your photo. People browsing that hashtag usually stop at the top 9. Pick hashtags that are in respect to the average amount of likes you get on your photos. If you are getting around 1-200 likes on a photo, make sure your hashtags have less than 50k people posting on it. If you are getting around 200-500 likes, step it up to a hashtag that is around 100k or less. When you get into the 500-1k like range, you can start tagging major hash tags.
7) Tag Other Pages.
It is nearly impossible to grow your page by yourself. You need help, humans are social creatures and need a social group. When you take a photo in Antarctica of a penguin using a Nikon. Make sure you tag Antarctica's tourism website, the owner of the penguin and Nikon in the photo. What happens when you tag these larger accounts is - they get a tag vitrifaction pop up on their feed. They have to click it for it to go away, that means they see your photo. If it is great, they will share it. And the notional penguin owner and antarctic tourism site that has hundred of thousand followers will share your content. I always tag at least 20 curator pages in my niche every time I post a photo.
8) Stalk Your Competitors.
Find pages that are doing exactly what you wish you were doing and have the following you wish you had. Look at these pages you idolize to and take note. Take note of their hashtags, their colors, their bio, their photo quotes, EVERYTHING! They are doing what you wish you could be doing - they have the recipe to where you need to be. The world does not care who you are, what you do, your skin color, age, etc. If you take a recipe for a cake, follow those instructions you will bake the cake. Plain and simple. Again, the world doesn't care who you are, follow the recipe and you will bake the cake. On these pages that you look up to, there is something that is revolutionary to your insta-growth. Followers! The people that like your competitors photos, those are your followers! Go get them! Follow them, like their photos, and interact with them. They obviously like the page you look up to, and if your page is similar to that, they will like your page too!
9) Engage. Engage. Engage.
Every time someone comments on your photo, respond. This not only shows your followers you care about them, but it boosts the comment count on your photo. Instagram's new algorithm likes photos with high engagement, and will put you at the top of the news feed. So when someone leaves a comment on your photo, respond to it with a question. If 50 people comment and say awesome photo, you reply with "Thanks! How are you today!?" then they respond with "I'm great! how about you?!" You just turned those 50 comments into 150 comments. Too easy.
10) Use the stories, go live, post videos.
When Instagram see's you using their platform, they reward you and give you a better chance of being on the explore page. Instagram wants you to use their story platform when you show everyone your sushi, not Snapchat. They want you to go live on their platform, not Snapchat. All of the major accounts post photos, videos, go live, and update their story. This is not only a great way to boost your standing with Instagram's algorithm, but also a great way to have your name in sight and in mind. Brand awareness means having your brand in someones face. Coke does a great job at this, and so should you. When people don't see your content, they forget about you. Keep little friendly reminders that you're there by going live, posting to your story and posting quality videos.